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Purdue Pharma and US states agree new settlement for opioid crisis

OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma reached a nationwide settlement on Thursday over its role in the opioid crisis, with members of the Sackler family, owners of the company, raising their cash contribution to $6 billion of dollars.

The agreement follows an earlier settlement that was appealed by eight states and the District of Columbia. They agreed to sign after the Sacklers paid more money and agreed to other terms. In exchange, the family would be protected from civil suits.

In total, the plan could be worth more than $10 billion eventually. He calls on members of the Sackler family to relinquish control of the Stamford, Connecticut-based company so it can be spun off into a new entity whose profits will be used to fight the crisis. The agreement would not protect the family members from criminal charges, although there is no indication that these are forthcoming.

Members of the Sackler family did not issue an unequivocal apology, but issued a statement of regret over the toll of OxyContin, its signature painkiller that users have learned can be manipulated to produce rapid effects. . Purdue Pharma had promoted its use for a wide range of pain conditions for which doctors had previously avoided prescribing opioids.

“While the families acted lawfully in all respects, they sincerely regret that OxyContin, a prescription drug that continues to help chronic pain sufferers, has unexpectedly become part of an opioid crisis that has caused grief and loss to far too many families and communities. the Sackler family statement said.

Under the settlement, victims must also have a forum, via videoconference, in court to address some of the Sacklers. It’s something they haven’t been able to do before in a public setting.

The settlement is described in a report filed with the US Bankruptcy Court in White Plains, New York, and must be approved by the judge. It was crafted with eight state and DC attorneys general who had opposed the precedent, arguing that it did not properly hold members of the Sackler family accountable.

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For Suzanne Domagala, of Millville, Delaware, even a modest payment to victims of the Sackler family is important, although she is still upset that the family is protected from lawsuits.

Domagala’s son, Zach, a Marine Corps reservist, got hooked after injuring his shoulder during boot camp. When he died in 2017, she said, she didn’t have the money to bury him and it took her a few years before she could afford a headstone.

“That’s why when you look at the costs of these things, money is such an insignificant thing,” she said, “but it’s the only way to demand justice.”

Ed Bisch, whose 18-year-old son died of an overdose 20 years ago, is glad the states pushed Sackler family members to pay more. Still, he called the settlement a “horrible deal” because so many parents who have buried loved ones won’t see the money – and the Sacklers will still be rich and free.

“Guess what? They still made billions and billions of dollars,” said Bisch, from Westampton, New Jersey. “Without any jail time, where is the deterrence? .

Individual victims and their survivors must share a $750 million fund, a key provision not found in other opioid settlements. About 149,000 people have made advance claims and may be entitled to shares in the fund.

This amount is unchanged in the new plan, but states will be able to create funds that they can use to compensate victims beyond that, if they choose.

Other new provisions include an agreement by members of the Sackler family that they will not fight when institutions try to remove their name from buildings funded with the support of the family. And additional company documents must be made public.

Most of the money is to go to state and local governments, Native American tribes and some hospitals, on condition that it be used to fight an opioid crisis that has been linked to more than 500,000 deaths in United States over the past two decades. .

“We are pleased with the mediated settlement, under which all additional settlement funds will be used for opioid reduction programs, overdose relief medication and victims,” ​​Purdue Pharma said in a statement released. separate from that of the family. “With this mediation outcome, we continue on track to continue the appeals process on an accelerated schedule, and we hope to provide these resources quickly.”

Kentucky and Oklahoma are not part of the deal because they both have previous agreements with Purdue.

Purdue, makers of extended-release versions of powerful prescription painkillers, is the most high-profile company among those that have been sued during the crisis. He has twice pleaded guilty to criminal charges related to his business practices around OxyContin.

The latest announcement follows another landmark settlement late last week, when drugmaker Johnson & Johnson and three distributors finalized a settlement that will send $26 billion over time to virtually every state and government. locals across the United States.

If Purdue’s latest deal is approved, the two settlements will give local communities who have been devastated by opioid addiction a significant boost to help them fight the epidemic.

There are two key differences between Purdue’s latest settlement and the previous one reached last year. The Sacklers’ cash contribution has been increased by at least $1.2 billion, and state attorneys general and the District of Columbia now agree.

Money should start flowing after Purdue, which is to be renamed Knoa Pharma, emerges from bankruptcy. We don’t know when that will be. The final payment under the settlement is not expected to be made until 2039.

Last year, all eight states – California, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington – and DC refused to sign, then most of them appealed after the approval of the approval by the bankruptcy judge.

In December, a US district judge sided with the holdout nine. The judge, Colleen McMahon, rejected the settlement, finding that bankruptcy judges lack the power to grant legal protection to people who do not file for bankruptcy themselves when certain parties disagree.

Purdue appealed the ruling, which, had it remained in effect, could have frustrated a common method of reaching settlements in large, complex lawsuits. Attorneys general who have signed up are dropping the main legal battle, but are still free to write briefs telling the courts not to allow protections for people who don’t file for bankruptcy themselves.

“No lawsuit, no settlement or no amount of money can ever be enough. The lives Purdue takes, they can never be returned,” California Attorney General Rob Bonta said Thursday at a press conference. video. “It may not cure the devastating pain that families still face, but it should not stop us from ensuring accountability and preventing future deaths.”

The new settlement still needs to be approved by US Bankruptcy Judge Robert Drain. Appeals related to the previous version of the plan could continue to go through the court system.


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